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So this past weekend, together with the Alternative University, we have organised the first Learnathon. The idea is simple: you choose a new skill you want to acquire / something new that you want to learn. You then spend at least 20 hours and try to advance as much as possible with your learning process towards achieving your chosen goal. More than that, we have added the social component – as we met at the Learning House, a place that oozes learning from every corner.

The idea for this Learnathon came from Josh Kaufman’s TED talk “The first 20 hours – How to Learn Anything”. His premise is that by deconstructing complex skills and practising the most important elements first, you can accelerate your learning:

This is what we’ve done at an individual level – each one of us chose a different skill – ranging from learning to play a musical instrument (guitar and drums) to a new language, Excel, and even sign language. The added layer – the social component – was all about creating that environment in which you are inspired to carry on, even when you hit a roadblock. Even though everybody was working independently at a different objective, the fact that we were all in it together created momentum. More than that, the lunch break provided us with the space to debrief on our progress, share ideas, inspire and be inspired.

The Learnathon covered the first 5 hours of the 20. The task is to continue at home, hoping that we managed to plant a sturdy seed :). 

This is my take on the whole event:

  • I challenged myself approaching an entirely new skill for me: Sign Language
  • The fact that I’ve spent some time doing my research before the actual Learnathon helped me stay on track and keep my motivation up
  • It’s important to choose a skill that keeps you “in the game” – otherwise, you can easily give up. For me, the selected skill is a “nice to have” skill with the sole purpose of possibly making somebody else’s life happier one day (and as a consequence, mine as well). I have written about how and why I chose this skill on Medium
  • Planning and blocking the time for such an activity is important, but don’t forget about the breaks! You do need to recharge your batteries – you could even try techniques like the Pomodoro technique

When was the last time you challenged yourself with learning a new skill from scratch?

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